Words and photos by Stephen Haynes
Interbike is an interesting proposition for a part-time luddite/agoraphobic like yours truly, in that it consists of lots of shiny things that make noise, and smiling people that want to talk to you, both of which terrify and exhaust me. Still, there are few opportunities to fondle new product and rub elbows with the people responsible for making them (or at the very least, the marketing people hired by the people that make them) outside a major tradeshow of this kind.
Interestingly, there is very little that’s actually new and different in the world of bicycles, aside from the occasional boutique product that serves as a solution to a problem 80% of the population doesn’t suffer from. Revolutionary changes in accessory and component design are measured in fractions of degrees.
There is one segment that continues to flourish and grow unabated, however, despite protestations from a large percentage of the American cycling population: e-bikes. Aside from the question “what the hell are we gonna do with all the spent batteries when they’ve run their course?”, I actually don’t have much truck with e-bikes. Being both relatively lazy and risk-averse, I like the idea of self-propelled vehicles that don’t go so fast as to immediately put your life at risk.
I was interested, specifically, in finding bikes that dropped the pretense of the vehicle being a bicycle altogether and instead gave you the option to simply press a button and go. These electric motorbikes fit neither in the motorcycle business, nor in the bicycle business, but rather somewhere in between. With relatively long charge times and relatively short trip potential, they serve a very specific type of person. I am, hypothetically, that type of person.
The OJO is a new product trying to carve out a new niche in an industry of niches. Being a lifelong fan of Vespa scooters, I was immediately drawn to the OJO as it cuts a similar profile. With its swooping front end, notched to accommodate a front fender, and upright riding position, this little wasp look-alike had my attention.
The OJO’s extruded aluminum chassis can hold up to 300 pounds and remains light enough (at 65 pounds) to move around when parking or tucking into a corner. Its super-intuitive, touch-screen display allows you to choose between three ride settings. The same display also serves as a speedometer, tells you how much battery is remaining and allows you turn on/off the OJO’s headlight.
The OJO also has Bluetooth speakers and a USB port so you can prove to your fellow commuters how discriminating your taste in music is, and charge your phone at the same time.
Riding the OJO takes a few minutes to work out. The small wheels make for agile maneuvering but feel super twitchy at first. In the highest speed setting, the OJO’s 500 watt hub motor will do 20 mph, even while carrying someone with a robust midsection, like me. All jokes aside, this thing is ridiculously fun to ride. It’s childish in the very best sense of the word.
The OJO’s 48 volt battery takes about 6 hours to charge fully from zero and has a 25 mile range. You can charge the battery via built-in 110 volt, onboard plug, which stows into a clever compartment, concealed in the front fairing.
The makers of the OJO offer a smattering of accessories from mirrors to baskets and the scooter itself comes in a relatively wide spectrum of colors. The base model OJO will set you back $2,000. Whether the OJO becomes a hot new thing or lives on in relative obscurity, the future of bike lanes may soon be filled with more than just pedal bikes.
The Cruz from Vintage Electric is sort of the antithesis of of the previously mention OJO. While the OJO fits the hyperactive, modern metropolis vibe, the Cruz is decidedly laid back. The sweeping curves of the Cruz’s steel frame are cut from the same fabric as the classic beach cruiser, which is evident in both name and attitude.
Everything about this bike sort of reeks of quality; the leather grips and saddle are by Brooks, polished alloy components litter the frame, an old school moto-style headlight adorns the front end and a CNC cut maple “gas tank” slyly muppets the real thing.
The sand cast aluminum battery box (hallmark of all Vintage Electric bikes), is the real star of the assembly. On its own, you might mistake it for an antique radio or refrigerator part, but here its appearance reminds the viewer of a time when things were made to last. As you might expect, all that quality adds up, and at 86 pounds, the Cruz is certainly heavy with it.
Operating the Cruz in standard mode will allow you to reach speeds up to 20 mph and has a range of roughly 30 miles. The Cruz can also be ridden in race mode which tops out, reportedly, at 36 mph. The test track at Interbike was restricted to 20 mph, so I can’t speak to race mode, but standard mode felt like plenty of speed and was utterly fantastic.
Swept back handlebars and 26 inch wheels skinned with Fat Frank tires from Schwalbe make for super smooth riding. The 750 watt hub motor, driven on by the 52 volt battery, propels you casually, yet forcibly, up to top speed in a few seconds. Charging the battery to 80% takes approximately 2 hours, and another 4 hours to be topped off.
The Cruz will set you back $5,000, and while it is unabashedly cool, I can’t help but feel like it’s more luxury than utility. Or perhaps as a middle-aged man with zero retirement savings and two kids to put through college, I’m simply blind to the possibilities. Either way, it was fun while it lasted.
The GeoOrbital is a self-contained, electric wheel that allows you to convert nearly any bike into an electric bike. By simply replacing your front wheel with the GeoOrbital and attaching the throttle to your handlebars, you can electrify your riding experience with one simple component upgrade.
Available in 26” and 700c, the GeoOrbital uses the interior hoop of the rim as a track for three wheels, one of which is a 500 watt motor powered by a 36 volt battery. The battery itself is cleverly tucked in the interior of the modified hub assembly and can be charged using standard 110 volt wall adapter. Charging times will vary, depending on size, between 2 and 4 hours.
The top speed of the GeoOrbital 700c, without pedaling, is 20 mph and has a range of roughly 20 miles. I tooled around on the company’s goofy little Minipenny, which can be purchased as a frameset and was as ridiculous and fun as it looks.
I didn’t get a whole lot of time on the GeoOrbital, apart from the aforementioned goofiness, but I like the adaptive nature of the product. While I love looking at new and interesting products that look to sell whole bikes, it’s nice to think you could get into the e-bike game without having to give up your regular bike. Available directly from the company for $1,200.
Dad Bod is a regular column written by our art director, Stephen Haynes, about the intersection of cycling, parenting and life. His other columns can be found here.Tweet Print